RACGP Rural 2019 award winners

Morgan Liotta

30/10/2019 2:49:38 PM

The college honoured some of the standout work in rural medicine at GP19.

Rural award winners
L–R: Michael Au, Dr Sophia Gordon, Dr Jerry Abraham Alex.

In addition to the college awards presented at GP19 last week, RACGP Rural named its three award winners to recognise their commitments to improve the health and wellbeing of rural and remote communities.
Rural Registrar of the Year
Currently completing his rural generalist general practice training through Queensland Health and James Cook University, Dr Jerry Abraham Alex is based at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in Yarrabah, Queensland – a community he said helps bond him with his work.
‘This award is a celebration and recognition of the efforts of various individuals working together to see a significant improvement in the health outcomes of our community, Yarrabah,’ he told newsGP
Through his work in rural and remote communities, Dr Alex has demonstrated his dedication and worked hard to inspire others to consider rural medicine as a future career. He has previously been recognised for work within rural health clubs, national advocacy at government level for improvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and rural health staff recruitment and retention.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dr Alex cites the communities in which he works as the most rewarding part of working in rural medicine.
‘The relationships formed, how people work together and look after each other, [there is] no pretension. We work through issues and provide genuine care for the people in our communities,’ he said.
‘We still have a fair way to go in achieving parity with our metropolitan counterparts for health outcomes, but I’m certain we will get there, one step at a time, slowly but steadily.’
Medical Student Bursary Award
In his essay through James Cook University, RACGP Rural recognised Michael Au’s deep understanding of the topic, ‘Rural generalism training: The future of general practice’, and his demonstration of providing realistic suggestions and innovative future thinking.
When asked what the future holds for rural general practice, Mr Au told newsGP he hopes to see more support for doctors choosing to work in rural and remote areas.
‘The field of rural generalism is expanding and is becoming ever more attractive,’ he said.
‘With the growing need to address rural–metropolitan disparities, services to rural areas are constantly expanding.
‘There are greater supports increasingly provided to GPs working in rural settings and there is gaining momentum and recognition about the positive lifestyle that working in a rural setting brings.’
Mr Au enjoys the diversity of rural medicine the most and appreciates the opportunity to work in various settings with a wide scope of clinical practice.
‘In all the locations I have completed rural placements, I have been given many clinical opportunities in emergency medicine, hospitalist medicine, general practice, obstetrics, and anaesthetics, just to name a few,’ he said.
‘Rural medicine offers the ability to make a valuable contribution to oftentimes disadvantaged communities and there is always something new to learn every day. At the end of the week, being able to escape into the bush is also rewarding.’
Winning the award gave Mr Au opportunity to meet with ‘other inspirational rural generalists who dedicate their work to improving the health of their communities’ at GP19.
‘I am incredibly grateful to be given this opportunity and hope to share these experiences with my colleagues who too share an interest in rural generalism,’ he said.
Community Project of the Year
‘Winning this award is a humbling recognition of the challenging role and isolation that is faced working in remote communities,’ Dr Sophia Gordon told newsGP.
‘It’s really lovely to be chosen for the award when many others are also working really hard for their communities.’
Dr Gordon completed her project, ‘Does access to diabetes educators in a remote WA Aboriginal Medical Service have an improvement on type 2 diabetes control?’, at Mawarnakarra Health Service in Roebourne, Western Australia.
Identifying a clear community need in the lack of support and education for patients with diabetes, her objective was to demonstrate an improvement in patients’ diabetic clinical parameters for those that had seen an educator, compared to those patients that had not – ultimately assisting future funding models to secure a regular visiting diabetes educator for the Mawarnakarra Health Service.
By establishing a diabetes educator in the health clinic, Dr Gordon demonstrated engagement with the community and key stakeholders. She finds her work in the community at times challenging, but also rewarding.
‘I love the independence in working rurally and how valued by patients I feel as a GP in rural medicine,’ she said.
‘We’re in such a privileged position but also have an added pressure to be the jack of all trades with a wide breadth of knowledge, which over time feels like it pushes you to keep upskilling and keep learning.
‘There is no comfort zone in rural medicine.’
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